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St Matt’s, McLeod a class above

“It was a special day just coming over the field with those awesome young ladies.”

That was the reaction from coach Tony Lyford after St Matthew’s Collegiate completed an unbeaten Gillette Venus Cup tournament with a commanding 82-run win over Christchurch Girls’ High School on Wednesday to be crowned national secondary schoolgirl champions.

“I am unbelievably rapt and just beaming. All the hard work came together, and we won the big moments, and I was a bit emotional, to be fair,” a proud Lyford said.

After the second day was washed out, St Matt’s went into the third and final day of the T20 tournament unbeaten, knowing that a win in the morning’s clash with the only unbeaten team, Takapuna Grammar, would put one hand on the trophy with only the winless Christchurch Girls’ High School to play in the afternoon.

A brilliant bowling and fielding effort saw Takapuna restricted to 101, although Lyford believed the score was higher than it should have been.

“It was an interesting game, and we probably let through about 16 extras too many, and that blew it out more than we wanted, but we fielded just electric.

“There were two brilliant runouts from direct hits, and that was because we were absolutely on and tuned in, and we got all their best players out but didn’t quite finish them off, but then the opening partnership [Emma McLeod and Sally Booth] of 65 runs took all the pressure off, and we had a little wobble at the end, but Fran Wells came in under pressure and hit a beautiful cover drive, and that took us to six to win and released all the pressure.”

If the win over Takapuna was down to the fielding effort, the afternoon matchup with Christchurch GHS belonged to batting genius McLeod.

After scoring the first Gillette Venus century [101no] on Tuesday, the New Zealand Under-19 set about obliterating that record with a scintillating 133, scored at a strike rate of 204.6, with 98 runs coming in boundaries [23 fours and one six] as St Matt’s scored what is almost certainly a tournament record of 219-4.

Lyford said the innings “was a masterclass, like wow, it was just a beautiful thing to watch”, but he also had plenty of praise for the support from Vanessa Taylor [37] in adding 99 for the second wicket and Fran Wells [28] in a third-wicket stand of 95.

Their ability to place the ball in gaps, run singles, and feed the strike was instrumental in building the biog total. However, deservedly so, Lyford’s plaudits go to McLeod, who he believes has a big future and should go on to represent New Zealand at the highest level.

“She’s a special young lady with an ability – and she’s so humble,” he said.

“She’s the one in the changing room cleaning up, she’s the one picking up the cones, she’s always the one offering to take the bags, she leads on and off the field, she’s awesome. What you see is what you get.

“I think she’s got the right mindset to go all the way; she takes things in her stride, she doesn’t get too overawed, and she puts things into perspective beautifully, and that’s the key to someone who can go all the way, you’re going to have your good day, but it’s how you deal with the bad ones. She’s probably not that far away now.”

Before the tournament, Lyford had cited fielding and better depth across the team as an advantage that St Matt’s had over other teams, and that rang true.

“Our fielding was definitely streets ahead, with our commitment in the field, our knowledge of the game and those kind of things.

“Every team had a contracted player, all but one [Tauranga GC], but it was what we talked about before we went where it was around that depth, and if you could knock over or squeeze their best player, you could really start to pressurise the lesser players by keeping the best players off strike and stop them scoring runs.”

The tournament ended Lyford’s coaching reign, which stretches back six years with the team and 10 years with the school, but he said the future is in good hands.

“I have had an absolute ball, and Gene Bartlett and myself have brought through, I think, 15 girls into the CD age group or senior representative level, but my young fella now, he’s transitioning into a wheelchair, and I need to start spending some time with him and family time is my priority.

“There are some really good people there, like Gene Bartlett and Brent Register and some young coaches coming through like Duncan Didsbury. The future looks bright, and there are some good year nines coming through and some year eights coming into the school next year.”

Wairarapa Cricket’s female cricket manager, Melissa Hansen, lauded St Matt’s success as a massive boost for the sport in the region.

“From a small association and a small school as well, to go out and win it against some of the bigger metropolitan areas and their schools is pretty cool, and a lot of the players have come through our year seven and eight tournament, and to see them move on to secondary school and to finish their time like that is cool,” Hansen said.

“We’ve provided that extra high-level pathway as well by having a senior women’s team playing interdistrict cricket, and those girls going back to their school and dominating some of the lesser teams is awesome to see.

“In female cricket, there’s always the odd one or two players that really stand out, but I think the St Matt’s team are quite well-rounded, and there’s a core group of younger players who can step up if one of the bigger players don’t perform, like in the first game when Emma got out early, but they were still able to cruise to victory.”

There is not much downtime for the St Matt’s players, with most of the team to represent Wairarapa in the Year 11–13 CD tournament in Whanganui next week.

ST MATTHEW’S RESULTS

Round One: Wellington Girls’ College 98–9 [Kate Chandler 32; Ava Register 3–16, Sophie Sweeney 2–21, Vanessa Taylor 2–6] lost to St Matthew’s 99–3 [Taylor 52no, Sally Booth 31] by seven wickets.

Round two: St Matthew’s 166–5 [Emma McLeod 101no, Sally Booth 23] beat St Hilda’s 160–8 [Hannah E Wilson 51, Chloe Deerness 28; Ava Register 3–30, Vanessa Taylor 2–19] by six runs.

Round Three: Tauranga Girls’ College – abandoned

Round Four: Takapuna Grammar 101 [Emma McLeod 3–14, Vanessa Taylor 2–10, Lucy Jurlina 2–16] lost to St Matthew’s 102–5 [McLeod 41, Sally Booth 22; Scout Hallman 2–20] by five wickets.

Round Five: St Matthew’s 219–4 [Emma McLeod 133, Vanessa Taylor 37, Fran Wells 28; Heidi Clouston 2–30] beat Christchurch Girls’ High School 137–4 [Lilah Cowan 57] by 82 runs.

STANDINGS

St Matthew’s 9; St Hilda’s, Takapuna Grammar 7; Tauranga GC, Wellington GC 3; Christchurch GHS 1.

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Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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